Rachel Jeantel Keeps Her Promise To Trayvon
Today, Rachel Jeantel was presented with her high school diploma, fulfilling a promise she made to Trayvon Martin. Sybrina Fulton was looking on.
Crossing the stage on Friday “is just the beginning of my life,” Jeantel said.
Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon when he told her that he was being followed and she heard George Zimmerman ask Trayvon what he was doing there and a “bump” to Trayvon’s cell phone. Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year old in the heart, killing him.
The daughter of immigrant parents, Jeantel speaks Haitian Creole, Spanish and English. At Zimmerman’s trial, the court reporter claimed being unable to understand Jeantel’s testimony. Defense attorney Don West turned the trial into an interrogation, often being admonished by Judge Nelson to stop repeating questions that Jeantel had already answered
Miami attorney Rod Vereen, connected with Jeantel shortly before the trial. He stated that he tried preparing Jeantel as best he could without knowing the government’s strategy. In the end, he believes that prosecutors missed an opportunity. “I don’t think they understood the importance of how Rachel was going to fit in,” said Vereen, a former prosecutor. “She was the person that brings out the character of Trayvon Martin.”
Attorney Vereen, with the financial backing of the Tom Joyner Foundation, assembled a team of three tutors, a psychologist and other mentors to shepherd Jeantel. Jeantel received tutoring after-school for three hours a day, five to six days a week.
Jeantel also got her driver’s license a few months ago. Her plan is to continue working with tutors on pre-college curriculum before enrolling in a university. She wants to be a clothing designer. The Tom Joyner Foundation has awarded her with a full scholarship.